Doozy Wednesday in National Assembly: Opposition boycotts closed-session interpellation of Defense aThursday, May 31, 2012 - 16:13, by Alex Engwete
Wednesdays are usually devoted to current affairs issues in the
Ordinarily, those Wedneday sessions are dull affairs where one MP
after another would take to the floor to deliver long-winded
monologues--no doubt to impress, surely not other fellow MPs who then
take that opportunity to talk on their mobile phones or flick through
their newspapers; but most certainly viewers of RTNC-3, the
parliamentary TV channel that carries live sessions of both houses of
But this Wednesday, May 30, was different, as for the first time two
important cabinet members of the new government were interpellated by
The two ministers interpellated are government heavyweights whose
purview is the country's critical security sectors: 1) Deputy Prime
Minister and Defense Minister Alexandre Luba Ntambo; and 2) Interior
and Security Minister Richard Muyej.
Two vocal opposition MPs had lodged the "oral questions with debate"
to the ministers:
1) Former Kinshasa provincial MP and current national MP Martin
Fayulu, leader of the party ECIDé (Engagement pour la Citoyenneté et
le Développement); and
2) South-Kivu MP Jemsi Mulengwa of PANADER (Parti National pour la
Démocratie et la République).
Deputy Premier Alexandre Luba Ntambo had to explain the nature of the
alleged recent secret security accord the DRC government entered into
with its Rwandan counterpart, without first informing the National
Assembly; whereas Interior Minister Richard Muyej had to respond to
questions over insecurity in South-Kivu Province, particularly around
the locality of Fizi.
But shortly after opening the plenary session, with the two cabinet
ministers in attendance, Speaker Aubin Minaku, invoking Article 60 of
the Rules and Regulations of the National Assembly, ruled that, given
the sensitive and classified nature of the issues, the debate had to
be carried out behind closed doors.
This ruling didn't sit well with opposition MPs--especially with the
two MPs who had fielded the oral questions.
Claiming that not the Speaker alone but all the MPs present could
decide on holding a closed-door plenary session, and accusing the
parliamentary majority and the government of dissembling about the
alleged security treaty with Rwanda, opposition MPs stormed out of the
Paradoxically, Deputy Premier Alexandre Luba Ntambo and Interior
Minister Richard Muyej made their responses in a closed-door session
in the absence of the authors of the oral questions.
Talking to the press outside the Congress Hall of the National
Assembly, MP Martin Fayulu charged:
"It's a move against the Constitution and against the rules and
regulations [of the National Assembly]. The Speaker of the Assembly
can't decree a closed-door session. It's the plenary session that
should do it. The minister [of defense] had signed accords in Rwanda
without informing the Parliament."
Well, the second paragraph of Article 60 the rules and regulations
"Sessions of National Assembly are public except if, exceptionally, a
closed-door session is pronounced."
As nothing in that title clearly identifies who should "pronounce" the
necessity of a close-door session, Speaker Minaku rightly assumed it
was his privilege to do so.
MPs have only themselves to blame for this gaping loophole in the
rules and regulations of the National Assembly.
Kinois in the streets and sidewalk bars were outraged and were fuming
yesterday afternoon over Speaker Minaku's procedural gimmick that
prevented them from witnessing their hero Fayulu embarrass two
cabinet ministers in what had been billed by the opposition all along
the previous days as a live TV event.
Most Kinois I spoke to claimed that Congolese leaders were a bunch of
dissemblers in cahoots with Rwanda and Ntaganga.
"They're mocking residents of the republic big time," one woman
exclaimed. "They are Rwanda's accomplices in the plunder of our
Her boyfriend mocked the preposterous idea of holding a closed-door
session on classified matters "with five hundred Congolese big mouths
"I could've believed Minaku's explanation if it was a small committee
hearing," he added. "Not with the full house. He's a liar! He thinks
we're his gullible fools!"
Alex Engwete is the nom-de-plume of a Congolese-American freelance writer, consultant and blogger based Kinshasa, DRC, and Washington, DC. (Read on!)